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Southlands public hearing terminated
Yesterday evening (April 14) Delta Council decided to end the public hearing on whether the Southlands should be put forth to the Agricultural Land Commission.
The move, recommended by Chief Administrative Officer George Harvie, was expected after a summary document released following a Mayor's Summit on the contentious issue stated Century Group has asked for the opportunity to create a new proposal for the 500-plus acres in south Tsawwassen.
Century Group, the majority owner of the Southlands, has until July 1 to submit a new development plan that increases the amount of land given to the Corporation of Delta for public ownership.
On Sept. 12, Harvie will recommend to council whether Delta should allow Century Group to continue through the formal application process and public consultation, or proceed with the Agricultural Land Reserve application.
Century Group president Sean Hodgins' original conceptual plan proposed up to 1,900 residential units on a third of the land and two thirds of the property set aside for agriculture (in a community trust), wildlife and community uses.
A public hearing in early March on whether an application should be made to include the Southlands in the ALR was in its fourth night when Mayor Lois Jackson decided to adjourn it until April 14 in order to hold a Mayor's Summit.
Jackson said a different forum for debate was needed as it was clear there was no consensus on the issue, adding it was not a decision she made lightly.
"I, of course, was made aware that this would be perceived by some as a further delay in what has already been a rather long process," she said.
Jackson went on to say it is not her intention to end the discussion about the future of the Southlands, adding the public is invited to continue to submit their comments to council.
Those who took part in the closed-door Mayor's Summit, which took place March 24 to 26, included Jackson, Harvie, Hodgins, Coun. Ian Paton, farmer Peter Guichon, Southlands the Facts co-founder Dana Maslovat and representative Richard Kunz, local environmentalist Anne Murray, Bob Ransford and Ian Robertson.
At last night's meeting, Coun. Heather King agreed with the recommendation to terminate the public hearing, noting she has learned much about the ALR application process.
King said ALC executive director Colin Fry told her putting the Southlands in the ALR would be the correct move if they want the land to be farmed, but not if they want some of the ecologically sensitive areas to be protected.
She added it is not a given the ALC would conduct public consultation.
Delta staff is expected to present a report to council Monday (April 18) outlining future opportunities for public input and how the process will proceed.